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Synthetic drugs, sometimes called legal highs or ‘designer drugs’, are lab-made chemicals created to mimic other drugs, like amphetamines, cannabis, and cocaine. The term’ legal high’ is misleading, often leading people to believe that these drugs are harmless. However, this is a huge misconception, as synthetic drugs are far from safe. They are used recreationally as an alternative to the drugs they mimic and cause a range of adverse side effects, including loss of consciousness, seizures, anxiety, violent and aggressive behavior, and paranoia.
Synthetic drug addiction can cause significant damage to a person’s physical and psychological health, as well as their personal, social, professional, and academic life. Professional addiction treatment for men is available at Brazos Recovery, where our client-centered approach aims to reverse the impact that a person’s addiction has had on all areas of their life.
There are hundreds of synthetic drugs available, but some are more common than others. Synthetic marijuana, also known as ‘spice’ is one of the most common. Synthetic cannabinoids like spice can cause seizures, excessive sweating, aggression, central nervous system (CNS) damage, and an elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and higher temperature.
Synthetic stimulants were created to provide the effects of stimulant drugs like cocaine, MDMA, and amphetamines. ‘MCAT’ is a commonly used synthetic stimulant. A user will experience a similar high to the stimulants mentioned above, but will also experience heart and nervous system issues, depression, anxiety, rapid thinking and speaking, a compromised immune system, disorientation and confusion, and a sense of paranoia.
Synthetics are sometimes used as an alternative to tranquilizers, or ‘downers’ like Valium and other benzodiazepines. Though the feelings associated with benzodiazepines are replicated, like relaxation and sleepiness, synthetic tranquilizers like GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) can cause harmful effects, including:
There are also synthetic alternatives to common hallucinogenic substances, like ketamine and LSD. Methoxetamine and NBOMe (commonly known as N-Bomb) result in hallucinations and a distorted sense of time and reality. Due to their hallucinatory nature, these drugs pose a serious harm risk to the user. Symptoms of use include dissociation, or a sense of separateness between mind and body, feelings of intense fear and anxiety, reduced awareness of the environment, and can cause some users to self-harm.
Bath salts are another common synthetic drug that can cause significantly harmful side-effects in users. They have been known to cause violent or aggressive behavior, panic attacks, paranoia, and hallucinations, and delirium.
When it comes to addiction, there are environmental and genetic factors that greatly influence our thinking and behavior. Exposure to synthetic drug use from a young age, for example, will increase one’s likelihood of use in the future. A family history of addiction is also often a subsequent factor in the development of an addiction, not just in the context of synthetic drugs but with drugs in general. There is also peer pressure, whereby a person will feel pressured to join in taking drugs as a means of staying involved in the group and avoiding exclusion.
Beyond the above potential causes, the presence of an underlying or pre-existing psychological health condition is a leading factor in addiction disorders. A person suffering from depression, for example, may experience the highs of synthetic drugs and then become reliant on them to feel those positive effects. Unfortunately for the user, this only provides temporary relief and can further exacerbate their condition.
Another leading factor in addiction development is ‘Positive Reinforcement’, a simple psychological mechanism, whereby a behavior or stimulus makes us feel good, so we do it again. This leads to psychological dependence, where the ‘feel-good’ aspect of drug use can only be achieved when the drug is taken and seems impossible to achieve without it. We naturally orientate towards behaviors that make us feel good, as they often give a biological reward. The brain releases dopamine, the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemical when we do something we enjoy or that is good for us, like exercising, eating, and sex. If we can’t get this natural release of dopamine, either due to a health condition or as a consequence of drug abuse, then using synthetic drugs to achieve that feeling can seem like the only thing left to do.
It’s important to remember that recovery from synthetic drug addiction is possible. As a consequence of chronic use and abuse, a user may experience a general sense of futility and hopelessness, which can cloud one’s judgment and rationality when it comes to figuring out what’s best for them. At Brazos Recovery, we offer comprehensive treatment for synthetic drug addiction. We aim to restore in clients a sense of hope to encourage them on the path to recovery, and a sense of autonomy, so that clients know that recovery is possible and is something they can achieve.
We understand that as a consequence of drug abuse and addiction, people can feel like they have no control over their lives. As part of our tailored treatment program, clients will benefit from individual and group therapy, which provides them with a strong network of support and encouragement, and with effective tools for self-management. The ability to manage oneself and take back some control over life choices is a highly rewarding experience.
Dealing with synthetic drug addiction is by no means easy. The psychological dependence and addiction that occurs as a result of chronic use has a severe impact on the mind and body and creates challenging difficulties when use stops. Many clients undergo withdrawal symptoms following cessation of use, which varies depending on the type of synthetic drug used. Symptoms can include severe depression and anxiety, aches and pains, body tremors, cravings, paranoia, reduced appetite, difficulty concentrating, hallucinations, and insomnia.
At Brazos Recovery, we offer a consultation and full health assessment to determine the most suitable type of treatment and provide a medically supervised detox and withdrawal management. We understand that withdrawal can be so overwhelming at times that a user may relapse as a means of avoiding these symptoms. However, we believe with the right care and management, a full recovery is possible.
Throughout treatment, be that as a resident or an outpatient, clients have access to our team of highly skilled addiction specialists who are diligent in determining the root causes of a client’s addiction and provide evidence-based therapies to promote recovery and an improved overall quality of life.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to synthetic drugs, contact us today. Addiction is a progressive condition, so the earlier that intervention happens, the greater the chance of a full, successful recovery can be.